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Don't Take it Personally
By Jean Charles

The best-selling book, The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz is an insightful little book with a message that is simple and yet profound. The author invites the reader to adopt a code of conduct that includes four agreements - "Be impeccable With Your Word, "Don't Take Anything Personally, Never Assume Anything, and Always Do Your Best"

This article is about the second agreement "Don't take Anything Personally".

Great advice, isn't it? The problem is, most of us take criticism or rejection very personally. When someone says to us "You are �K(fill in the blank), we may take it as the truth. Actually their comment is about them and their perception of you and has nothing to do with who or what you really are.

The following are some thoughts to keep in mind the next time you receive harsh comments:

1. It's not about you. When people make insulting or vicious remarks to you, it's a reflection of what's going on inside of them. You are simply the target at the moment. Harsh criticism is usually brought on by one or more of the following:

a) Ego. Some people will criticize you to boost their own ego. They pull you down a few pegs so that they'll feel superior to you.

b) Impatience. Impatient people are also likely to make insulting remarks that are out of proportion to the situation. For instance, if an impatient person feels you should complete a task in 5 seconds - and you take 10 - you'll hear something like, "Are you a moron?" Clearly, this has nothing to do with you.

c) Childhood Influences. Many people who criticize you without regard to your feelings grew up in an environment where they were criticized harshly. They are simply repeating the pattern.

Accept the fact that people from all of these categories will cross your path at times.

2. Learn from it. In most cases, you can learn from criticism and rejection. Although the comments may be harsh or exaggerated, there may be some truth to be found.

For example, if you receive negative comments on a Performance Review at work, see it as an opportunity for improvement. Consider the comments objectively and look for the lessons. Take the necessary actions to improve your job performance. If you truly believe you are doing your best, these actions could include looking for a job that better suits your talents.

3. Laugh about it. After you get over the initial shock of a critical remark, allow yourself to have a good laugh! It reduces the tension and puts things back in perspective.

We did Patient Satisfaction Questionnaires in my former Healthcare company. One question asked about the reading material in the waiting room. The funniest responses were the ones that rated the selection as poor and then stated in the very next answer that the person had waited 0 (zero) minutes in the waiting room.

4. Don't let anyone stop you from pursuing what you want to achieve. Life will test you to see how serious you are about pursuing a particular path. Sooner or later, you'll face negative feedback. When you do, remember not to let anyone crush your dream.

If you are doing what you want to do (and aren't hurting anyone else), the only question to ask yourself is: Am I doing the best I could in this situation? You can't ask yourself to do more than your best.

5. Give what you want to receive. If you want others to be less critical of you, then you must be considerate of the feelings of others. We all have to provide feedback and criticism at times and probably overdo it sometimes. We say things that we wouldn't want others to say to us. We get impatient and forget that it took us time to learn the very things we're expecting others to perform perfectly right away.

Don Miguel Ruiz gave some great advice when he said that we shouldn't take anything personally. Yet, it is a very difficult concept to put into practice. My hope is that by remembering the above thoughts, you can greatly reduce the amount of time and energy you spend taking things personally.

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